characteristics that this column will predicate. Let’s be honest, thoughtful and wizened talk on any matter, let alone comics, tends to be on the dry side (boring). You know, like most of the DC Universe. Being somewhat new to this world, there’s not much love lost between myself and some classic books and even companies.
Oddly enough, Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. started out as a blatant rip-off of Marvel Comics’ X-Men with interplanetary war between two alien races as its backdrop. This Covert Action Team, as it was described, consisted of mostly crossbreeds of humans and Kherans, one of the two alien races featured in the book. It only makes sense as one of Lee’s most popular runs of all time was on the X-Men in the early 90s. The Jim Lee creations consisted of characters such as Warblade, whose fingers and hands shift in to long metallic talons (Wolverine), the quiet and reserved team leader known as Spartan (Cyclops), and the enigmatic gimp of a team leader Jacob Marlowe (Professor X). These mutant-esque heroes even battled a couple of alien super villains, complete with tawdry costumes and aspirations of conquering Earth. It seems silly to love a clearly inferior product, but you can’t very well measure up the tastes of a child to that of a man.
Here’s the thing: even though the ‘cats are clearly a riff of a classic, I enjoy their stories more than I enjoy those of the X-Men. Even though I regularly read X-books, there is something about growing up with a book, no matter how juvenile, that has an appeal unmatched by a book with well established and tread upon story lines and characters. Also, the WildC.A.T.S. have tended to stay away from the trap of constantly killing and resurrecting characters for the most part. The increased realism enhances the story, even in a fantasy setting.
I’ve been reading Alan Moore’s Complete WildC.A.T.S. over the last few weeks. Moore was one of the writers that helped transform the team from the X-Men’s racial allegory to more… as well as more of the same. During his run, Moore explores some interesting concepts such as human-cyborg relationships as well as speciesism in place of racism. In an interesting twist to the Kherubim / Daemonite war, it is revealed that the war has been over for hundreds of years and that Khera is at peace, being the winners of the war. Initially, Jacob Marlowe’s group is treated as war heroes, but the team is pared off and the reader find that there is an extensive caste system on the planet Khera where other species are treated as subhuman. While the X-Men have dealt with various ‘ism’ allegories for decades, this was a relatively new concept to the Wildstorm Universe. So the story arc is both new and old.
The WildC.AT.S.were just as immature as I when the first issue came out and we’ve matured alongside each other. When the team collectively felt the disappointment in the elders of the planet Khera, I too am reminded of my own disappointment and disgust with the older generation, especially as it pertains to racism and classism. With that same naiveté that comes with youth, comes the chance to do something different. When a book is referred to as “classic” it does not necessarily mean “better”. Wildcats (as they are now called) books will most likely never sell as well as Marvel’s monumental mutant books. However, as long as I get my fix of the Wildcats at least a few times a year, I’ll be a happy man.
Posted originally: 2008-08-05 16:02:33